NDSU Bison football coach Craig Bohlhas been honored by the NCAA as national coach of the year for whatever arcane subdivision of collegiate football teams the Bison play in (I have to admit that the appeal college football eludes me). The honor, called the Eddie Robinson Award, is granted by sports writers, among others, and is intended to go to someone who is very good at winning football games.
Coach Bohl has proven he’s worthy of that honor. He has, indeed, produced football teams that win a lot of football games. Sadly, in his pursuit of winning football games, Coach Bohl (among other officials at North Dakota State University) has allowed integrity and ethics to take a back seat.
Earlier this year roughly a dozen members of Coach Bohl’s team were found to her perpetrated massive signature fraud on two ballot petitions. When the news broke, Bohl and other university officials immediately applied a double standard to the situation. Other players guilty of even minor infractions had been immediately suspended or even kicked off the team. But with Bohl and others, no doubt seeing their shot at another national championship on the line, announced initially that these players (among them several starters) should get their day in court before any team/university punishment was meted out. And then, before that day in court arrived, Bohl and NDSU Athletics Director Gene Taylor announced that they wouldn’t be handing out any punishment at all.
Thousands and thousands of signatures forged, but not a consequence in sight for the players. NDSU President Dean Bresciani has made noises about the possibility of the players having been punished in ways that federal privacy prevent them from disclosing, but let’s get real. Within the last week the suspensions of several members of NDSU’s softball team, resulting from a team party, were announced publicly. Earlier this year several hockey players at the University of North Dakota had their suspensions announced as well.
NDSU’s officials, from Coach Bohl up to President Bresciani, helped these football players avoid accountability for their criminal actions and have sought to cover the matter up from the public all because the players are elite athletes who win championships and bring prestige to the university.
But what’s more important? Winning football games, or ethics? Transparency? Accountability? For the leadership at NDSU, and many football fans int he public at large, winning football games is by far more important.
Coach Bohl’s award, and NDSU’s national championship this year (if they win one) should both come with asterisks attached.